The Oy in Soy

Silk Soymilk If you’re a vegan, or even a vegetarian who balks at the idea of factory-farmed moo juice, you probably douse your morning bowl of granola with Silk Soymilk. After all, according to the Organic Trade Association, White Wave’s USDA-certified-organic Silk is the No. 1-selling soy milk in the U.S., securing a prodigious 75 percent share of the growing soy-milk market.

You may even have heard murmurs that Silk started importing organic soybeans from China, Brazil, and Argentina to supplement local beans because of shortages in 2003. What you may not know (and I was until recently blissfully unaware of) is that the practice continues today, likely because imported soybeans cost as much as $4 less per bushel than those obtained domestically. (We have no idea if these beans are traded fairly, either, so don’t look for consolation there.)

Most of us know that buying local is one of the linchpins of sustainable living, not only because of the tremendous amounts of fossil fuel it takes to transport food vast distances, but also because of the pollution fuel combustion releases into the environment. So why import what we already have? Doug Radi, marketing director for Silk, said in a statement that the majority of the soybeans Silk buys are domestic. “We are committed to making practical decisions that are consistent with sustainable business principles,” he said. I don’t pretend to know very much about soy farming, but I’m guessing Doug here didn’t exactly assuage the concerns of organic soybean farmers in the Midwest.

The plot sickens …

A little online spelunking revealed that White Wave operates under the auspices of Dean Foods, one of the not-quite-benign corporations represented by the Organic Trade Association, which successfully lobbied to attach a rider to the 2006 Agricultural Appropriations Bill to allow certain synthetic food substances in the preparation, processing, and packaging of organic foods, thereby weakening existing organic standards. (The bill passed into law in November and will go into effect later this year.)

I also came across a release which celebrated the fact White Wave buys green tags to offset its own carbon emissions. This is, of course, commendable, but wouldn’t it be far better not to contribute to those same emissions by shipping soybeans from overseas in the first place? Something about this smells like poopy diapers, if you ask me.

So until I figure out how to grow and crush my own soybeans so I don’t have to second-guess where my soymilk comes from, I’ve temporarily switched allegiances to soy milk from Organic Valley, which, as far as I can tell, buys all its soybeans domestically. How much stock you wish to place in that assertion after your heart has been ripped apart, stomped on, and flattened out by a relationship you thought would LAST FOREVER is a matter I leave to your own discretion.

17 Comments »

  1. Katherine said,

    April 25, 2006 at 3:53 pm

    Sad. Sad sad. I like Silk better than Organic Valley, too. Of course, I buy real dairy milk from a local dairy. It is not certified organic, but it is hormone and antibiotic free and only travels a few miles, so I feel good about it. I used to buy Horizon, but no more. Large companies that produce organics can be as problematic as mainstream companies.

  2. Melissa said,

    April 25, 2006 at 4:16 pm

    My issue with soy milk (and we buy Silk too) is the container! I know that not everyone has this problem, but in my locality, they don’t accept “waxy” paper - like the cartons that most soy milk, milk and juice comes in. So, I’m saving dairy cows by drinking Silk soy milk, but apparently, I’m contributing to the problems Jasmine mentioned and tossing cartons into the landfill. It’s so frustrating. Our system is so set up to be wasteful and greedy, that when you really start investigating you realize that you have to practically make everything yourself to even approach being truly environmentally sensitive.
    (I’m feeling pretty whiny and discouraged right now - can you tell? ;)

  3. kathy said,

    April 25, 2006 at 4:35 pm

    Any word on almond milk? It’s soy milk, without all the soy.

  4. Liz said,

    April 25, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    I know not of this Silk soymilk of which you speak, as we drink fresh-off-the-farm organic, unhomogenized and unpasteurized milk in a glass bottle, BUT one of the knitblogs I read recently posted about how to make your own milk. I guess if you have the time (and the inclination) it might be worth it?

  5. Liz said,

    April 25, 2006 at 5:25 pm

    And of course, that’s make your own SOYmilk. Otherwise you’d need a cow and a bit of space.

  6. juanita said,

    April 25, 2006 at 7:02 pm

    Going with Liz’s comment:

    My mum makes her own soy milk.
    She taught me once.

    I have soy beans sitting in my fridge;
    I just haven’t made the effort to go hunting for cheesecloth. Yet.

    And when I do, you’ll definitely hear about it from me.

  7. monkey said,

    April 25, 2006 at 8:08 pm

    thank goodness ive always gone with organic valley and never had silk soy before *PHEW*

    but my sister makes her own tofu so i suppose she makes her own soy drinks too
    all u need is a little machine because i know she lives in a teeny weeny lil apartment so u wont need a cow nor a lot of space

  8. MJ said,

    April 26, 2006 at 10:31 am

    Some years ago while reading John Robbins’ The Food Revolution I discovered that most soybeans grown locally are GMO. Since then we’ve been using rice milk or almond milk. One minute you think your food’s safe, and then you find out they’re not. It’s good to be vigilant.

  9. BLT said,

    April 26, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    Could you talk a little more about the Organic Trade Assn? I thought they were the good guys? Who IS representing true organic interests in Washington?

  10. Liz said,

    April 26, 2006 at 5:57 pm

    At this point, the only way to guarantee you’re not eating GM soy is to buy organic. But as time goes on, there is an increased likelihood of genetic contamination. MJ is right: we need to be ever vigilant about our food, because the rules and the labels are always changing.

  11. Laurie said,

    May 2, 2006 at 11:51 am

    OTA are definitely NOT the good guys. They’ve been taken over by corporate interests and have shifted their focus to defending companies like Horizon Dairy and going after organic consumer watchdogs like the Cornucopia Institute. See the Organic Consumers’ Association web site for great information on industrial organics. http://www.organicconsumers.org/.

  12. Heidi said,

    May 22, 2006 at 7:11 pm

    Hi! I’m loving your blog and I’m perusing your archives with much enthusiasm! I thought I’d post a link to a method of making your own soymilk and tofu:
    http://primalpotter.com/ (click on the tofu page)

  13. budak said,

    May 23, 2006 at 12:44 am

    Soy is such a great food but I shudder at the way burgeoning demand for soy protein and texturised vegetable protein (used in vegetarian foods as well as fillers in meat products) is resulting a massive ‘restructuring’ of land use in Brazil. See: http://www.mongabay.com/external/soybeans2003.htm

  14. The Worsted Witch » And So It Begins said,

    July 31, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    [...] You’ll note that Wal-Mart carries Horizon Organic (a subsidiary of Dean Foods, which also owns Silk Soy Milk), however, one of the more controversial “factory-farmed” organics on the market. [...]

  15. The Worsted Witch » The Organic Myth? said,

    October 6, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    [...] Related articles: 1. Organic/Eco Classifications 2. Unfair Organics 3. Organic’s Edge Questioned 4. Eat Shoots and Leaves 5. Not All Organics Created Equal 6. Chekhov’s Eco Tip: Local or Organic? 6. Blog Love: Pocket Farm 7. The Oy in Soy [...]

  16. Carnival of the Green #25: May Day Edition « said,

    June 6, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    [...] Sue Richard, My Menopause Blog, loves her organic milk from Homefields Organics because it is bottled in glass rather than plastic - no toxic leaching. Another organic milk drinker from The Worsted Witch, discusses the The Oy in Soy Milk. She says Drinking Silk Soymilk will increase your food miles. [...]

  17. Mark Gailmor said,

    January 4, 2008 at 12:10 am

    Sorry to inform you friends but, for those of you that are vegan, Organic Valley’s Soy Milk is not. Here’s a copy of an email I received today from Organic Valley after questioning their D vitamin sources.

    Dear Mark,

    Thank you for contacting Organic Valley/Organic Prairie.

    We do consider our soy beverages to be perfect for a vegan diet because there are no animal derivatives used in our product or its ingredients. However, it may depend on your beliefs as a strict vegan.

    Our vitamin D is made by processing a sterol from Lanolin (sheep’s wool); yet, we do not kill the animals to obtain it since it is just from the wool.

    With that being said, I hope you can determine if it fits your vegan needs.

    Here is a link to find out more about our soy products and frequently asked questions about them: http://www.organicvalley.coop/utility/faq/soy_faq.html

    I hope this information is helpful. If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Sincerely,
    Kayla C. Koenings
    Consumer Relations
    CROPP Cooperative
    Organic Valley / Organic Prairie Brands
    One Organic Way
    LaFarge WI 54639
    kayla.koenings@organicvalley.coop
    1-888-444-6455 x3367

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